Sunday 9 June 2013

blue door thinking

Supperclubs are ten a penny these days - springing up all over the capital and further afield, it can be quite a mind boggling task sorting the wheat from the chaff. Whole websites and forums are now dedicated to the discovery of the next host with the most or fusion chef with 'personality' (read: ego), often wanting to peddle their less than amazing wares for an overinflated price, whilst quaffing your more than decent BYOB. It's a real balancing act finding a good venue, with good food, at a good price and with good people - and with the average price of a supperclub spot at around the £35-£40 mark (sans booze) I've tended to err on the side of caution rather than fork out just to be disappointed.

With this in mind, it was with slight trepidation that I booked a spot for myself and a friend at The Pale Blue Door, a Dalston based supperclub situated at set designer Tony Hornecker's gaff. I had been meaning to pay TPBD a visit for a year or so, and the time finally felt ripe for a slice of local dining with a difference. Would it come up trumps? A brief googlewhack revealed some past happy customers, and without digging too deep for fear of spoiling any surprises, we signed ourselves up for supper.

The night began with pre dinner cocktails at one of my favourite Shoreditch spots, on Great Eastern St, the gloriously girly and kitsch boudoir bar Ninety Eight. Spirited away down a spiral staircase, it's a blink and you'll miss it Parisian drinking den, which I only spotted one night by chance as I caught sight of some candles glimmering up through the gloom underfoot. Awash with fur, sparkles, quirky portraits and objets, this place is a real visual feast (and the cocktails aren't bad either). We plumped for green tea cheesecake in a jamjar affair, and a strawberry and coffee bean extravaganza - both full of flavour, unique and not badly priced. This spot is really one for the girls, but if you fancy being thoroughly emasculated then step inside, I am sure you'll just love it mon cher.

Cocktails quaffed it was time to head to deepest darkest Dalston (well, near Middleton Road) and find the elusive pale blue door...

Yep that's it. Tucked down a long alleyway of warehouse spaces, a ramshackle sort of workshop, with a decrepit looking campervan parked out front and a load of old tyres and a soiled dressing gown hanging from the rafters. YUM! Not to be defeated, we pushed on through to walk into an Aladdin's cave of well worn theatre props and warm candelight. Phew - things were looking up. Shown to our table for two (a godsend for those who like suppeclubs but don't like the idea of getting stuck between two oddballs for the duration) we ignored the slightly musty aroma and had a good ogle at all the weird shit. I turned round to come face to face with a mannequin in a sequinned Smurf's hat and had to throw my jacket over it's head but apart from that all was good.

Rowena a table
Hornecker's home is a real eyeful - he has built up quite a collection of costumes, masks, stuffed things and theatrical paraphernalia over the years. Everything is a bit ragged round the edges - we touched the mismatched cutlery and dogeared napkins gingerly, but it all adds to the edge and the feeling that this is really someone's lived in abode. The precarious stairs (made of chairs) up to his sleeping quarters were thankfully off limits, with a sign reading 'NO ENTRY - DEAD DOG'. Nice.

the stairway to hell

After about twenty-five people were seated, a weird crackly record began to play and a Latino love god(ess) came stomping through to welcome us all in a chicken outfit. Random. Introduced to our host for the evening, glamourous drag queen A Man To Pet, we were treated to a fresh ceviche vegetable starter and some decent red wine. Hornecker himself didn't show up, but we were regaled with a song and a dance from this dudette between each course, getting more and more dramatic and outlandish as the night progressed. The main was a fairly good lamb stuffed with ricotta accompanied with quinoa and dessert was a fresh berry Eton mess. Portions were adequate (just) and the food was simply done, but the atmosphere was fun, warm and friendly and if you haven't seen a drag queen in a gold leotard, cape and a bird's mask getting hoisted to the ceiling on a pulley while flapping away to a Seventies soundtrack then quite frankly where have you been hiding?

By the end of the night, everybody was up on their feet and dancing, as A Man To Pet whirled around in a mankini and six boobs (don't ask).

At £40 for a three course meal, half a bottle of vino each and fun frolics from a class (drag) act you can't really go wrong with The Pale Blue Door for some midweek merriment. Just give your hands a good scrub when you leave.